It's almost Nov. 20, the day when Major League Baseball teams must decide which players they will add to the 40-man roster for the purpose of protection from December's Rule 5 Draft. Most players selected in that draft don't end up making a huge impact in the majors, but there have been a few—most notably, Roberto Clemente, Johan Santana, Dan Uggla, Josh Hamilton and Joakim Soria—who have had huge breakthroughs for their new squads.
The Rockies have had varying degrees of success with the Rule 5 Draft, getting contributions over the years from the likes of Luis Gonzalez (the other one) and Tommy Kahnle while cutting ties with others such as Daniel Rosenbaum.
Colorado has also lost its fair share of decent players as a result of not protecting them. Daniel Winkler and Taylor Featherston were nabbed by other clubs in the Rule 5 Draft last year and the Rockies were stripped of Everth Cabrera a few years prior.
The Rockies last year chose to protect only Tyler Anderson, adding him to the roster at the deadline at the expense of Juan Nicasio, who was designated for assignment and later acquired by the Los Angeles Dodgers. This year, Colorado will likely choose to protect multiple players, even with the 40-man roster currently being full.
Unlike last season, Colorado hasn't been busy with waiver wire pickups, which means that if we learned anything from 2014, the team probably plans to protect more of its Rule 5-eligible players. Let's take a look at that full list, courtesy of the incomparable Rockies Roster:
Unassigned players and/or unknown status with the organization
The Rockies don't have to worry about most of the players on this list, but there are a few whom the team will need to think long and hard about adding to the 40-man or risk losing them to an opportunistic club next month.
Story is very close to being major league ready, while Senzatela and Tapia have displayed the kind of upside—albeit at a lower level—that should force the Rockies' hand. In Tapia's case, it doesn't hurt that he's widely viewed as at least a top 100 overall prospect in baseball.
Estevez's presence in the Arizona Fall League means the Rockies are at least strongly considering their options for him. The 22-year-old right-hander emerged as a solid relief prospect in 2015, striking out 68 batters and posting a 3.40 ERA in 55⅔ innings across two levels. Carasiti, though a couple of years older, is in a similar situation after a good year (3.02 ERA, 9.1 K/9) as Modesto's closer.
Swanner was in this category last year after a better-than-advertised debut in Double-A. In a repeat season at that level, the just-turned-24 catcher posted a 132 wRC+ and much-improved plate discipline. Swanner has lost quite a bit of luster as a prospect in recent years, but his performance over the last year and a half or so suggests a deeper look is warranted.
Other interesting cases
Rodriguez, Daza and Marte—despite all performing relatively well—are far enough away from the majors to where the Rockies likely don't have to worry about losing them. Jiminian and Gonzalez, both of whom have shown flashes of brilliance over the last couple of seasons, are still a combination of far away (High-A) and fringy, so it's not likely a team would let them take lumps for a full season in the big leagues.
But Casteel and Flemer are intriguing. The former is coming off an injury-plagued season but performed OK in limited time in Triple-A after being a strong candidate to be protected last offseason. The latter, a constant victim of poor run support in Double-A, has a slim chance of one day becoming an innings eater at the back-end of a big league rotation. It's unlikely any team would take a flyer on either player, but their relative proximity to the majors makes them at least worth considering.
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So, there are a few players the Rockies very well could add to the 40-man by the time Friday rolls around. They'll need to create some room as a result. Who might the Rockies part with to get that done? Here's a list of 40-man occupants who, to varying degrees and for various reasons, could be considered for outright removal:
That's more than half of the rostered players. Some of them are more realistic or more deserving for consideration of removal than others. Almost all are non-tender candidates and or could be made available for trades or exposed to the waiver wire with little consequence.
If the Rockies simply wanted to swap out players by position, the players most likely to be affected are Ynoa, Gurka and Herrera, who has been on the 40-man for two years but has yet to debut in the majors after two poor seasons at High-A. However, Colorado has a few arbitration-eligible players it will likely non-tender, including Axford, Brothers, Rosario and Barnes. Either way, the Rockies have options en route to protecting Story, Senzatela, Tapia and perhaps a couple of others.
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Let's open this up for discussion. Which players will the Rockies protect, and who will they remove from the roster by Friday to make it happen? Let us know in the comments, or feel free to write a FanPost if you have something more detailed in mind.